Meet Yukon

Yukon

Update – ok so after many attempts Yukon wouldn’t get in the trailer. A storm was coming in and I’m sure he sensed that before the humans did. So he is now scheduled to be brought to us her on the 28th – after we drop the human boys at college.

Stay tuned!

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Today we pick up Yukon. (Rescheduled for aug 28). He’s a 19 year old quarter horse from Days End Farm Horse Rescue. Days End is a well know rescue in Maryland and probably in the Mid -Atlantic and now they will become nationally known because of a partnership they have with a non-profit whose job it is to spread the word about horses in need of homes -esp companion horses -which are horses that can no longer be ridden. There are many places for companion horses – like in our case we need a buddy for Harley.

Days End (DEFHR) has made national news from time to time for their rescue efforts after natural disaster like Katrina. When I go to their farms (they have two now bc of the sheer number of horses they are helping ) I always am amazed at the dedication of the staff there and the care they give the horses.

When we set out to meet Yukon last weekend we headed west towards WV into the beautiful hills just East of the Catoctins. We landed at the farm in Maryland which is shy of the WV line. It was pretty and clean and the horses – most of them companion horses- were well kept.

We walked back with Kelly who is a caretaker for these horses. It’s a big job and she does it well and with a smile on her face. She was thrilled to introduce us to Yukon who is a big chestnut gelding. He is immediately friendly and reminded me a lot of Harley. I love gelding because of their puppy dog like demeanor.

Yukon is a bit nudgy for treats as is Harley. Nothing we can’t handle. I’m told he likes to get in and out of gates first. Airy was like that- except she was last to come in off pasture. Grass was king to her. She loved that more than anything.

Yukon led well and was happy to stand in a grassy area and eat grass as we swatted away bugs.

Yukon has navicular issues which is a bone in the hoof of the horse. I won’t go into details as I’m still learning about it. But let’s just say he has sore feet and is on medication for it. I’m looking for supplements that can alleviate inflammation as well. He won’t be stalled like he is now. He will be free to walk around which is better for his foot pain. I think we will have to rake up rocks in the paddock as well. But the pasture will be a nice comfortable place for him.

So back out to Rohersville Maryland later today. He seems like he will be a great fit.

I’ll write more about him soon. I’m nervous and excited both.

Harley by the way is doing well. We keep telling him Yukon is coming ! More later….

Harley – who is Yukon?

Harley alone- maybe not for long…

Airy has been gone four days now. Things are quieter. Things still feel off.

Though he has quieted down a lot since Monday, Harley my Tennessee Walker was very upset the day we put Airy down. We had the vet img_5705give him a sedative and he saw Airy’s body. It didn’t settle him down too much. He pranced around the paddock calling to her. He got no answer. He was pushing up against the fencing trying to get to where he last saw her. I feared for his safety – I feared the fencing might give. So we opened the pasture gate- the one furthest away from her body and hoped he would graze.

He would run in and out of the pasture calling to her. Not gonna lie – my heart was breaking for Harley too. He was confused and stressed and I had no way to take it away. The first night was hard on everyone. My initial shock wore off and the dam of tears came flooding out. I could not stop crying. I cried for the loss and the trauma my horse went through leading to her death and I cried for my living horse who was calling periodically throughout the night for a friend who would never answer.

I could not sleep in my bed that first night. I took to the family room couch – it faces the front and side of the property and is furthest from our paddock. I couldn’t bare to hear Harley calling to her. I put earphones in and listened to the oceans waves and read my book and must have dozed for a few hours.  I woke at six and it was quiet. I hoped it would be a better day for Harley.

The truck came to take Airy’s body away. I could not stand to go out so my ever strong husband went.  Sadly Harley became very upset when he saw the truck. I could hear him from inside. There was no way to block his view and I am not sure he knew what was happening or if he just knew someone was near where he last saw his friend. When the truck pulled away Harley went on calling her.

I knew he was under duress and I wanted badly to help him. I had little I could do though. I went to the feed store and got some natural calming paste and I got some probiotics. In times of stress Probiotics are helpful to help alleviate ulcers. Thankfully Harley has been eating and drinking just fine.  I gave him half the paste in the tube and hoped it might help a little. I brushed him and pet him and talked to him.

Wednesday he was much more quiet. He called a couple times and was much more vocal at my approach to the barn. I have been watching him. And he mostly sticks to his stall. Thursday we opened the pasture gate closest to my neighbors horses and I was hoping he would feel some comfort in seeing them- if they venture out in this heat. I normally do night turn out in summer but now I will do whatever I can to make Harley less stressed.

We had six horses and two donkeys between four small farms on my side of the road. All of our pastures close together. Now only three of those horses remain as one of my neighbors lost two of her horses suddenly on the same day a few weeks ago. So it is a quieter place these days. I miss my neighbors horses too as I was “friends” with her equine boys.

Horses are natural herd animals and I feel they need companionship. That is not to say they can’t be alone – I have seen it before and even the vet said Harley may settle in and do fine as a lone horse. But would he miss having a buddy? I am not sure I should put the human term lonely onto an equine- do they get lonely? Is he grieving? I am not sure what it is but herd animals depend on each other for safety, companionship, and even to help keep the flies at bay (horse will stand near each other and swish their tails to keep the flies off each other!). There is a need there.

Since I can’t know what he feels because I am not a horse I can only go by my observations. I think Harley was confused and stressed that his companion was gone. If we had a third horse maybe I would not have seen the same level of stress. Horses do bond and I think when they are separated whether by one horse being moved to another farm, or herd, or through death it can cause stress. But something in Harley’s behavior leading up to Airy’s passing and after leads me to believe he knew it was a permanent parting. Horses may not understand death fully but I believe they feel something that lets them know that something more serious is up.

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Harley and Airy in the pasture

So I am sure Harley is confused- he’s always been in a herd. Maybe he is lonely or whatever a herd animal feels when it is now a herd of one. As the days move forward he will settle down and perhaps he could be ok as a lone horse but I am not sure it would be the best thing for him- and lets face it if I feel this way then it causes me stress so its not the best thing for me. Looking outside and seeing just one horse seems off to me.

So right after Airy died my concern shifted to Harley being alone. What were we going to do?  If Harley were being boarded with other horses or if we had a third i would not get another horse. Part of me doesn’t want another horse. There is the expense and there is the fact that physically I am not the same person I was when I bought my horses years ago. I have limited use of my one arm and at this point I can’t ride.  So I don’t want a horse that requires being ridden – if I can ride Harley again that would be so great but two needing to be ridden would be too much for me. We also considered having a boarder here. We could get some help maybe in exchange for board – but there is liability in this and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take that on.

I know there are tons and tons of horses out there in need of homes and I know there are plenty of horses just looking to be companions to other horses. Ones that can’t be ridden due to health issues or age. But I still don’t want to own one. The other day soon after Airy died I began my search to see if my needs for a horse could be met so I could meet Harley’s need for a companion. There are a vast number of horse rescues in Maryland but there is one in particular that I was pretty familiar with. I looked on their website – Days End Farm Horse Rescue  – and I saw what I was looking for – a guardian program! Ingenious really.

With the Guardian program a person take possession of the horse – typically these horses are not ridable but can be great companions “pasture pals” to other horses-  and Days End retains ownership of the horse. As guardian we would provide for all the horses needs but these expenses can be written off on the our taxes.  We could return the horse to the rescue if the need arose. This sounds like it could be a good fit for us.

Saturday we will go out to visit a prospective Guardian Program horse named Yukon. A quarter horse Gelding about 18 years old. Chestnut in color (coincidentally the same as Airy was). He is said to have a great temperament and gets along well with his current pasture mates.  We have to have a couple visits with him and one of the trainers at the rescue. If we all think he could be a fit for our farm then he will come here soon after.

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Harley and me- selfie

We need to restore some balance here. I am still grieving the sudden loss of my horse and that will ebb in time but life has to move on and the focus must be on the needs of the creatures that are still living here.

Maybe Yukon will be one of those creatures.  I will let you know how our meeting goes!

 

 

 

 

On the loss of a horse

 

 

Airy 2012

Arizon – or Airy – Arab – she was 26 years old. This is one of my favorite photos of her.

There is a time for everything

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance…..

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Authors Note- I want to thank every person who messaged me, commented on my Facebook post about Airy- your support and care means so much….. and thank you Kirsten W. for the muffins ❤

 

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This past Monday  I had plans to go out to Tractor Supply with my son Luke to grab some needed feed and bedding for the animals.  I was ready to go – purse on the counter- I was filling up my water cup..one of the ones that keep your water cool all day. It was a regular day. Then it wasn’t

We had returned from the beach the evening before. -we had been gone for almost a week. When we went down to the barn to check the horses  we found some things that were not done the way we would have wanted them. It seemed like our caretaker cut some corners. We fixed the mistakes. I put the horses out on pasture. They seemed fine- no worse for wear. We headed back to the house.

So back to Monday. Earlier in the morning Kevin brought the horses in and grained them and set out hay for them .  Later as I was readying to go to Tractor Supply and I was filling up that water cup  Kevin was looking out of the back slider at the barn. I asked him what he was looking at. I thought the cats. We have one elusive kitty we only see from a distance. Kevin said , “Airy was just rolling, then she got up and pooped but now she is down rolling again.”  For some reason my internal alarm went off. I just had a bad feeling. You just know your horses and mine will roll but they never roll get up and then go down right away to roll again. We needed to get down to the barn.

Our day just went from normal to super stressful in 30 seconds.

When I got to the barn Airy was down.  Sweating, covered in dust and mud. Her eyes were far away. We tried to get her up but couldn’t. I could see she was very bloated. Oh crap…

I said or maybe yelled “Call the vet – she has colic – hurry”. Kevin ran to get my phone in the house – neither of us grabbed ours as we went out the door. When Kevin went in Airy got up walked a ways. I could not get to her fast enough before she went down again. Rolling….

I should explain what it means when horse colics. I have heard colic as being called  a horse stomach ache – and I guess it is that because there is pain – but it can turn to a deadly situation when the intestines twist causing a blockage that can only be fixed through surgery. It is very painful even in a less serious case. Horses cant vomit- they have a one way in and out system.

Wikipedia describes colic as” abdominal pain, but it is a clinical sign rather than a diagnosis. The term colic can encompass all forms of gastrointestinal conditions which cause pain as well as other causes of abdominal pain not involving the gastrointestinal tract. The most common forms of colic are gastrointestinal in nature and are most often related to colonic disturbance. There are a variety of different causes of colic, some of which can prove fatal without surgical intervention.”

During signs of colic, I have been taught try to get a horse up and walk them around and not let the horse roll. As it can make the gut twist up (but I was told differently after the vet got there.). So we had to try to get her up. At one point -when Kevin ran in to grab the phone- I was holding the lead rope that connected to her halter and i was pulling on her with all my might (with my one good arm)as she lay on the ground trying to writhe from my grasp. I screamed “Stop you are going to kill yourself…stop stop! ” But somewhere inside I wondered if it was already too late. But I couldn’t go there. She had gotten colic maybe five years before this episode and we had the vet out and she was good as gold after they put a tube up her nose and put oil into her stomach. Oh and they gave her pain meds too. Surely they could get her straight again. But this time she seemed so much worse than before.

I was in utter panic inside but I was trying to keep my mind straight. I called the vet and tried to talk as Kevin and I worked on getting her up. If anything we wanted to move her from the hot sun. But if we could get her up we could get her walking.

Thankfully they said the vet was able to come right away but it would take time. We were able to get Airy up but she was not happy about it. We kept her walking in the shade and put wet towels on her. Kevin leading me following behind with a crop. I texted my neighbors to see if they had any pain meds. My neighbor, Nora, gave us oral Banamine- an NSAID.  I gave it to her as best I could and we kept walking and walking. My son Luke helped by bringing us water and watching for the vet. Airy is normally somewhat feisty and there was none of her spirit there as we walked on and on.

Walking and walking

We thought the banamine was working because she pooped and passed gas. Later we came to find out thats not a sign of improvement. She seemed to pick up her gait. But soon she was slow and hoping to be able to get down and roll.

It seemed like hours that we walked her around. It was likely only 30-40 minutes. The vet – Dr. Engle – pulled in and immediately he told us to stop making her walk.  Thats when I learned that we didnt need to make her walk and later I googled about it and found this.  Walking can be good but in other situations you are just tiring everyone out. How do you know when then to walk? In our case we all were exhausted. Now I know in her case it wasnt making a difference and now I know to stop walking a horse that is so tired.  I now feel very regretful that in her last minutes of life I was making her maybe more stressed. It hurts my heart.

After Dr. Engle gave Airy pain medicine by injection he then examined her and listened to her stomach sounds he said it was” quiet in there”. So he did a rectal exam and that is when he gave us the news I had not wanted to hear..maybe somewhere I knew what he was going to say but I had packed it away in some far reached area of my brain. He said her intestine was turned some. Not all the way. He didn’t look hopeful. I asked him the question. “Does that mean we have to put her down?”

“It looks that way…but we aren’t there quite yet” He said.  What options did we have? There was surgery  10k.  It doesn’t make sense on a 26 year old horse and he wasn’t recommending it.They also said they could find tumors during surgery and still she might not make it. I knew that wasn’t an option for us – for her.  I began to cry. I tried to hold i together but it wasn’t working.

Tubing Airy – I was in the stall with Harley.

We went on to talk a bit further about trying to stick a tube up her nose and send some mineral oil through her to see if that might help. This is what they did when she had colic before and it worked. So we decided to try this as a last ditch effort on saving her life. I stepped away to try to compose myself.  I went into the gym  which is attached to the barn and  our young friend Kirsten was there  – she was so sweet trying to comfort this very sad lady.  I grabbed kleenex. I headed back out.

My son Luke was running all over the place trying to help. Moving Harley out of the way, grabbing me more water. I can imagine how stressed he was. I could see it on his face. He felt for me and for the horse. Part of the time I didn’t even register he was there but then I would need him and he would be nearby. I am so thankful for him. And there is my husband – Kevin- who is always ready and willing to take on the hardest tasks form cleaning up the grossest of messes to leading a dying horse around in circles hoping she might recover so his wife wouldn’t be heartbroken. He is always amazing but in these situations he is stellar.

Time was standing still or it was my brain – I didn’t want to know what was going to happen next.

I stood with Harley in the stall hugging on his neck. I knew if Airy didn’t pull out of this colic and we put her down he would suffer too. Horses are herd animals and Airy and Harley were very bonded. I hurt for him.

After the vets (there were two of them here now- another showed up while I was somewhere in the barn) finished giving Airy her intubation of mineral oil I walked out and waited with them to see if she perked up. Kevin walked her around the paddock and I asked the vets what were we looking for with her. They said just any change in demeanor. Which mean she needed to perk way up. Her eyes were listless, her demeanor was not good.

I then began to ask the tougher questions because I knew we were at the end of a rope. I wasnt going to let her suffer any longer. What do we do with her body? How do you euthanize a horse? I got the answers as I watched this lovely beautiful animal struggle. She had been such a good horse. A companion to Harley and friend to us. It was my duty to not let her suffer any longer.

Kevin with Airy some years back.

…I had tried to ride Airy years ago. She was all Arab- proud and sleek.  She had a wonderful gait. Nice trot you could sit easily to. But we would get only so far in her training and she would spook or be “on her toes” too much and I became nervous to ride her- I feel off her once but I got back on but it scared me – I didn’t feel experienced enough to handle her –  and then I got Harley.   Airy’s training was put on the back burner. At that time the horses were boarded at Windsong Arabians not far from where we lived back then.  So sometimes I’d tack her up and ride but most often I rode Harley. Then in 2010 we moved them here to our farm and she became the pasture pal that we needed for Harley. I worked with her some while she was here but I never rode her – and I think she was just fine with that. She was the beauty in the field.

I think you know how the story ends here…once we saw no improvement in her demeanor and Dr. Engle did a rectal exam and found that he no longer could get  in as far as he had when he arrived which means things were not getting better and I could see that she continued to be in pain…I called time. It was her time. We took her out of the paddock to a place where she could lay down on grass – out of Harley’s site – and so the person who would pick up her remains could get to her easily.  She did lay down on her own which was better I think. She took a bite of grass- how fitting- she loved her grass. They gave her more sedative and I said my goodbyes. But there are no words that seem enough. I told her it was ok to go. She was a good girl. But the words are flat… but the hearts… they connect. She knew what I felt.

I left Kevin with her and I went into the gym. I wasn’t sure I could see her slip away. I didn’t want to see her if she was afraid…I didn’t want to convey any of my distress to her in what should be a peaceful passing for her. After she was gone I went to her. I knew her spirit was gone – I could feel that-but I pet and kissed her a final time.  She still had some grass in her mouth.We covered her with a sheet and towels and Kevin snipped some of her tail hair for me to keep. She had the most beautiful mane and tail.

The vet checked out Harley as he was distressed even though he couldn’t see Airy. They gave him a sedative. They led him over to see her.  They hoped it might help him to see her. He sniffed her body and then began eating grass. They led him back. Later he began to call for her….that has been hard.

In the end it is a blessing that we can be merciful to our animals. We can hasten their deaths- we can keep them from suffering. We have to make hard choices. In this case the choice was clear…but it was hard.  As my friend Jon Katz writes often- we have to be stewards to our animals.

A farm has a heartbeat of its own made up of all the beings that live here and for the moment the heartbeat is off.  Airy’s death doesn’t just make me sad it effects my other horse as well – which I will write about later. Everything just feels off. One less horse to feed. One less soul to connect with. There is an emptiness- I feel it..Kevin does too.

I am crying my tears now- many of them. My heart hurts but it will heal. I have my regrets. Why did I let her out into the pasture that night when we got back?  Did anything that was off from when the caretakers were here effect this? Should I have been on the lookout for more signs she wasn’t right? She seemed good Sunday night.  Did she just eat too much grass? But hindsight won’t help. She is gone. I just have to process this and grieve. The vet said this is just a case of bad luck. Her age- 26- the fact she had colic before- all were things against her. Dr. Engle did not want me to beat myself up.

After Airy died, Kevin came into the gym and he told me she was gone. We both cried a bit but then he showed me a picture. It was of a beautiful butterfly on Airy’s leg. He told me the butterfly was there through the entire process of her being euthanized. The vet said he had seen spirits leave before but never through a butterfly.

Well Miss Airy you flew away on butterfly wings….Fly free girl … and thank you….it was wonderful knowing you….

 

 

Being part of the farm again. 

For the last two days I have been able to go out and work a bit on our little farm. This is such a big deal for me. I have been unable to do anything for months because of the pain I had. “Had”being a key word. I amstill not pain free after the surgery but I’m able to be part of life again. That’s so huge.  I can’t do that many things physically out at the barn yet but I can do a little and I can give orders! 

It felt good being part of things again. It’s hard to put into words the things I feel right now. I’m such a mix of emotions all the time. But feeling like a normal human again at least some of the time is really awesome.  

I don’t have the stamina yet that I want but it will come. If I do too much I have pain.  I still have some of the pain I hoped would be gone as a result of surgery-but it comes when I do certain things which leaves me with hope that as I gain more mobility with my arm that some of these issues might go. And I’m told it may take a year to heal fully. There is a chance that some of the nerves that were bothered for so long may not heal 100%.  But I’m hoping for the very best outcome. 

But that’s just stuff I don’t want to worry about now. I enjoyed today -being outside with my animals. Just being part of the world again. I came back in before the gale force winds we are supposed to get began. I think it’s blowing away our Indian summer. I’m not looking forward to winter really I’m not a fan of the cold but I’ll not let that keep from being part of my little farm. I’m thankful I’ll be able to go out and enjoy the season. 

I took a number of photos today of basic farm happenings. But to me they are such a gift to be able to be part of such a place. The sights,the sounds, and the smells of a farm. Somehow I feel like farms are part of my soul. There is an amazing comfort for me when I’m on any farm.  I feel it’s where I’m supposed to be.  Well here and the beach and in nature.  I have a large soul I suppose! I’m lucky to have found my places where I can find my center. Some people search a long time for that. 

Hope you enjoy today’s farm photo s. 

Airy my mare

harley my gelding and the horse i ride.

asking for a treat!

the storage area pf our barn . it geta quite a collection of junk and needs to be tidied up periodically

looking out on the back forty. our land is only tonthe fence but i love backing up to preservation land!

molting hen. she is on her way to new feathers.

me standing on manure pile. sums up my life of late!

new 100 gallon water trough w heater!

inside looking out.

Horse Jewelry? Try Rhythm Beads…

I have been on a writing hiatus. I have a ton of draft posts started and that’s overwhelming on top of all the other overwhelming stuff that has put me on this writing hiatus. I love writing so I don’t want to back away from it bc it seems daunting. I looked at all the draft posts and I decided to pick just one that I want to write. Nothing heavy just fun – so here it is. I am writing about Horse Rhythm beads. A fun and easy thing to tackle.

What in the heck are rhythm beads? Rhythm beads are a necklace for your horse! The necklace consists of beads and bells. The sound that the bells make while riding is said to be calming to the horse and rider. The other bonus is that the noise can alert wildlife that you are coming when you are on a trail ride. Nobody likes deer to jump out in front of their horses while on a path!

The origins of rhythm beads come from Native Americans.  Native Americans dressed up their horses not only for beauty but each piece had a purpose – mostly to provide protection to the horse and rider. I have been using rhythm beads for many years. I am so used to riding with them that it would seem odd not to have them jingling during my ride.

My horse adjusted to the beads right away. He is not spooked easily by things so I just put them on and off we went. It is advised to introduce them to your horse. Show the beads to them- and shake them so they can hear the noise they make. If that goes ok you can place them around their neck and maybe groom them while they wear the beads. Maybe jingle them a bit. Take them off.  Do this a couple more times. Then go out for a ride with them on but only walk – if that is going well begin to work at faster speeds. Pretty soon the sound of the beads will become a part of your rides. Never leave the beads on a horse – they are only to be used while riding.

There are many places online that sell these beads. Just google Rhythm Beads. I have also found them on Etsy.com as well.

Take a look below at the video I took while riding recently. It lacks in quality bc it is not easy riding a horse and filming at the same time! But you will be able to hear the beads in action.

These beads are from –Kristi Lyn Glass. Prices vary from site to site and can be more expensive with more detail , more bells and embellishments.  I love the way they look and I love how they sound.

Thanks for reading……

 

This is a mane dangle

These attach with a clip on the mane and has a quick release piece in case the necklace becomes caught on something while you are riding.

Ends and Beginnings…

On Sunday as I walked down the drive way of Bedlam Farm to my car I began to cry…

But that was the last day of the Bedlam Farm Open House in Upstate new York hosted by Author Jon Katz – that was the end. So much happened in between – and to think up until the minute I left home on my trek I thought I might not go. I do that. Its my opt out mechanism. The opt out comes from a long dance with an anxiety disorder. As an event approaches – an event like the Open House that I was looking so forward to  going to – I will become increasingly anxious and I will think of reasons not to go…or I will feel so bad physically I will cancel. But as much as those thoughts came into my head the more I willed myself to push them out. I was going to Bedlam.

I have had enough of my dance with anxiety and the fact that it has limited me. It still wins sometimes. There is still part of me trained by the beast but I am getting better at ignoring it. After I had cancer last year I realized that life is now. None of us have the promise of tomorrow and decided that I better get living. For me that sometimes comes harder than it needs to be – but it is my reality. Over the years I have learned a a lot about dealing with anxiety and much was from the man I hoped to meet on my journey to Bedlam Farm – Author Jon Katz.  Jon has dealt with his own fears and I learned from Jon that fear is a space to cross – a chasm to jump over. Get through it and there is love and accomplishment on the other side. I had to jump that chasm to get to meet the person who has inspired me so much over the last few years. I wanted to meet the people in the Facebook group he created (The Creative Group At Bedlam Farm)and I joined a few years ago. A group of incredible creative people that i am lucky to have come to know online- I wanted to meet them in person. (read the bloggers posts here).

I had cancelled the trip to the other Open Houses two times prior.  I was pretty tired for a while after radiation and I had nerve damage and then I got frozen shoulder and traveling in the car was a bear. It seemed like I might never feel good enough to trek to upstate New York to attend and Open House. Of course anxiety played a roll in canceling the trips and finally I realized maybe I wont ever feel 100%.  I realized that though my mindset was to get busy living i was still limiting myself waiting to feel a certain way.  I might be waiting for a long time and i might be missing out on a lot of life. So this past winter I decided to get on with it. I began doing more things and I realized the more I got out the better I felt. So I booked a Yurt at Grist Mill Campground and decided to head to Bedlam in June. And even know that demon anxiety tried to thwart my trip – I faced it -and off we went – my entire family on my journey to my Mecca.

The car trip on Friday was a little rough but entering Upstate New York and its beauty made it so worth it. We checked into our Yurt -which I will write more about later- and headed out for a bite to eat. I hardly slept that night and was thankful for the sounds of the stream that ran just behind the yurt.

I am not going to lie–heading down south from our campground to Bedlam Farm I felt the anxiety build as the GPS counted down the miles to our destination. Kevin pulled into a restaurant just up the road from the farm to get some bottled water. I sat in the car praying that the Holy Spirit would calm me down..and I alternated between the prayer and  rationalization that we could drive right on by. There was no pressure…I did not have to go. Kevin came out and joked that he tried to score me a little wine but they didn’t sell it to go. Actually I think he really wasn’t kidding. But I told him that I was going into this head on and I was going to enjoy myself. I knew that the big fear cloud in front of me was thin and I could just step right through it. And I did.

When I saw the farm for the first time it was like a dream but also there was so much comfort in it. I barely recall walking up the driveway to the house (except I told Kevin I knew the boy in the ATV was Tyler- a young man who has been a huge help to Jon and Maria- he has become quite the celebrity). I looked up the driveway hoping to recognize someone. I laughed to myself bc I had never met anyone (except Janell Tomas that morning at our campground- and I thought they hadn’t arrived yet)- so who was I really looking for? I know anyone from the Creative Group reading this will know who I might have been looking for- a beacon in the forest – a light that always shines…Lisa Dingle. (No it wasn’t Jon Katz bc I would be too nervous to just run up to him and hug him- which I wanted to do!) Lisa is an Admin for the creative groups Facebook world but she is also everyones friend.  She is an incredible writer and a warm person..How did I know this having never met her? Her writing exudes it..her encouragement to others in our group shines of caring and love. And lo and behold there she was there to greet me! A big hug and introductions the first 30 minutes are a blur. I got that hug with Jon and was touched by his attention on a busy day with many people coming and going. Ok I was a little starstruck– it might be Brad Pitt for you but for me it was Jon Katz.

I was engulfed in love from all the farmies (members of the Creative Group)that were there. So many hugs and smiles. I knew right away that I was meant to come – it was something that had been waiting for me – this visit. The first 30 minutes were surreal- I was in a dream bc I was on Bedlam Farm- the farm I had seen in pictures thousands of times. I am not sure why – maybe it was the fact I had seen the photos of the farm so often- but I felt so at home in the space. But more oddly I felt like I had known many of these people already -and perhaps I did- you can create connections online.

I listened to poetry, visited with the animals, watched herding – all incredible. But I wanted to meet the matriarch (I had to use that word lol) of Bedlam..Maria Wulf , Jon’s wife. Maria has been an inspiration to me. I have seen her grow creatively over the years and I have always admired her quiet strength.  Kevin didn’t get to chat with Maria as I did and wondered if she was shy. I told him I didn’t find her shy at all…she was easy to talk with. She may not have realized that I was a bit starstruck with her too – and when I get nervous I talk a lot (sorry Maria if I blabbed). Most people don’t realize I have anxiety bc I compensate by talking! Meeting Maria was sure a highlight for me.

I wanted to take in the weekend and I really tried to focus on absorbing it all. I tried to talk less-hard for me- and listen and observe more. I didn’t take a ton of pictures the first day. I left that up to my daughter Kamilla. I just tried to soak it all in. It was overwhelming for the first hour – meeting so many new people. I wanted to embed their faces and names in my brain – but don’t test me.

I was enamored with the animals and Red is amazing! I can see that Fate is going to be some dog- I look forward to watching her grow. The great things about the end of Saturdays Open House is that there is another one on Sunday. So it really isn’t over.  On Saturday we decided to follow others to the Bog (nickname for Foggy Notions Restaurant in Cambridge Mass.). How unlike me to just meet strangers out for a bite…but not strange bc these people weren’t strangers. I had met them all before just not in the flesh. It was familiar and comfortable and good. I sat near the Deborah’s (Glessner and Rahalski) I chatted with Doug Anderson. During the meal, I never felt weird or tongue tied (maybe that was the wine spritzers). My husband was right there and as always he was chatting away and enjoying himself. His support is really what helps me face my fears. He is truly the partner I was meant to have on this life’s journey.

On Saturday night the rain began. So no campfire and I was worried what that might do for the open house the next day. In the morning we all headed down to the Roundhouse Cafe and enjoyed a meal and fellowship with other farmies and Jon and Maria and some other folks from Blue Star Equiculture a draft horse rescue in Mass. The food was great and it was really cool to spend time in a place that Jon has shared on his blog for many years. The town of Cambridge, NY is very nice and I can see why one would be drawn to this community. I hope to explore the town more when we head back in October for the next Open House.

After we packed our car we headed back to Cambridge to see if the Open House was going to happen and sure enough it was. I was glad bc I was not ready for it to end. The rain held off and it was a great day. There were fewer people and that was nice as we could spend a bit more time chatting with Jon. I was able to buy some more wonderful things from Maria’s shop. I love Maria’s fiber arts and had to have another potholder.  I was taken by the batik work of Carol Law Conklin.  Rachel Barlow’s cartoons on magnets were a hit as was her Hoga necklaces (i bought two)I loved all of the artists showcased – there was so much talent there.

For me the weekend was about many things. Overcoming fear…living in the moment and connecting with people. Meeting all of the farmies was just wonderful and I want them to know that I so appreciate the way they welcomed me. I want to thank each of you by name but if I left anyone out I would feel bad…you know who you are and I send you a cyber hug of thanks and love. I look forward to meeting more farmies on my future trips to the Open Houses. I am not sure I can really ever put into words what the weekend meant to me. I know those that have made the journey for the fist time know the feeling.

Jon and Maria thank you for opening your home for this event. Jon I probably will never be able to really tell you how you have inspired me and made me think about things. Your open writing has helped me (and many others a lot). See I don’t have the proper words so I will just leave it there.

I will see you all in October – I will probably have to fight the anxiety demon some but he won’t win….

On Sunday as I walked down the drive way of Bedlam Farm to my car I began to cry….

These weren’t tears of sadness – they were tears of gratitude. It was the end….but it was also the beginning of something new and special. Making friends is not easy for me…but I feel like I made some new friendships and connections and I think this is just the beginning of more joys to come…

Thanks for reading…

 

Persistent ride…

Last Sunday was a beautiful day here in central Maryland. So I decided after returning from a Trek to the grocery store that I would ride my horse Harley. I got my stuff out. Lassoed my valiant steed ( really I just put the halter on). I brushed him and Airy ,my Arab, since she was hanging around. I gave Harley some treats for not being “girthy” (when a horse gets pissy when you pull the girth tight to secure the saddle. He once bit Kevin in the butt. ) We put Airy out in one field. I headed to the other with Harley walking along very nicely. That is until we got to the round pen. I made the mistake of deciding to mount in the round pen where there is grass. Lush grass which he promptly began eating. With his head down and me not having the strength bc of my bad shoulder to haul his head up and get on at the same time- mounting was going to be tricky! I was very proud that i still yanked myself up into the saddle bc about six weeks ago I found that I had gotten too weak. Well after much working out I was so happy that I was stronger. I pulled his head away from the grass and we were off!

Ah but once on I could tell Harley and I had different agendas! I wanted to ride him and he didn’t want that at all. It didn’t help that Airy was right in the next field eating grass. I have a gauge of how keyed up my horse is by how it feels to be on his back. When he’s keyed up or hell bent on getting his way his back is stiff and he holds his head up. He’s twitchy is how it feels to me. Harley was super twitchy that day. This could be an interesting ride.

We rode around in the round pen for a bit. The gate to the pen was open to the inside so we couldn’t really ride the rail. I decided to take him out of the pen into the field. He felt less twitchy. He wanted out of the pen as he had been attempting to point himself toward the gate while I was warming him up in the pen. So leaving the pen was easy. The problem arose when we got out of the pen. I was planning to go one way and Harley clearly wanted to go another way- back to the barn. This was not a good thing. This created a dance. Woman on horse as he dances sideways -woman trying to correct him by using leg and rein reminders and woman feeling like if we kept going sideways woman might end up on the grass. I decided to pull him in a small circle by using an open but direct rein. I might interject here that in dressage which is how I was trained the rein is used as a reminder- we don’t pull them to turn our horse- we use our seat and legs. So using a rein like this is a correction but sometimes it is needed.  Horses don’t like turning in small circles. My past riding instructor always said make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. It’s pretty hard to go in one direction when your head is being pulled in another. When you go where I want Harley I’ll make it easy. Turning in small circles usually works but this time I had to add a little thwack with the crop but he decided my direction would work for him.

I hate when rides start out like this. It keys me up and I get frustrated. And I then wonder why he is being this way. But it’s not like he’s never done this before. It had been a while is all. So I got my bossy pants on and decided how I wanted this ride to go. I have found that with him my persistence usually pays off. But sometimes it takes a lot of persistence and patience. If I get mad then things go downhill. Persistence is not anger- it is asking over and over again for something until you get it. I have also learned from training my Arab Roy that once in a while things don’t go the way you are picturing it so it is best to back off and do something you know the horse will do and then end that ride or lesson. I did not was that to happen on Sunday but I was prepared for it. But I set off with persistence.

It took Harley a while to decide he was on board. His back was still twitchy. He wanted to break into a trot. A gait we don’t do much bc he is gaited horse. I decided to take him in a serpentine pattern as the changing of direction engages their brains. I then let him go into his working walk which is a smooth gait faster than a walk. He wanted to go his way again.

So it went like this : Oh I guess we are going in a circle again sir! Am I’m not being clear? “Ack” my negative word to him when he’s being naughty.  Ok sorry I’m going to tap you with the crop again. Oh ok now you hear me. Praise praise for doing the right thing. And on we went.

A few serpentines. 20 meter circles. Crazy eights. I kept picturing how I wanted the ride to be. I kept taking deep breaths to rid myself of tension. Somewhere in the midst of this Harley began his moaning. I don’t have another name for it. But when he does that he’s relaxing. He’s in the moment with me. Yay! I was able to give him some leg. When he was keyed up I didn’t put leg on him bc that may have ended up with him breaking stride or going too fast.  I spent more time praising him. I asked him to go around the entire field and he mistook that for us going back to the barn. But he didn’t need any real correction. It was more like he was saying “my bad I thought we were done “.  Back out into the field once more. Around once and down the centerline for a halt. Pretty solid. Didn’t want to hold the halt but that’s ok. We got through and lets end this on a good note. Out we went towards the barn on a loose rein.

After I ride I often think about what I can do better. ESP on rides like Sunday’s. I like that I had persistence and I put confidence out there. I didn’t like that I got frustrated with Harley right off the bat. I liked that we developed the connection during that ride despite the tough start.

I was reading comments today on another blog post by Maria Wulf about animals mirroring our emotions. I think I will think about this next time I ride.  Am I being impatient? Am I distracted? Am I conveying proper confidence? It’s so important to be aware and present when riding.  Sometimes I lose myself in thought or in non thought. But being present and calm and clear is so important to the connection we have with our horses.

I know I was centered after my ride bc I decided to clean all my brushes and reorganize the stuff on my shelves in the barn. I must have been on an endorphin high! For me it’s that zen feeling that I get during and after a ride that I crave. It may not have been a perfect ride but it gave me the perfect feeling. So I will take that any day…

Thanks for reading…

PS- I am not an expert level rider! I am maybe low intermediate. Riding is a life long learning experience and I know what works with my horse. Don’t take my solutions as expert advice! Have fun and be safe!

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I am looking away- probably looking for anything that would distract harley in the field beyond. He is actually semi-relaxed here…we were still in the round pen!

This is an example below of a horse who did not want to go the way I wanted him to go- see my face- see his ears? See my left arm? I have opened it up and am pulling him around.
  Here we are in a better frame and somewhat more relaxed.  Oops He did it again! I am leaning forward and beginning to open my left rein to pull him – look at is ears…clearly not on board with what I was asking – so I have to be more persistent. Make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. He is a bugger sometimes!